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The Stepfather (2009)

tn_stepfather09Speaking of small time horror remakes, the STEPFATHER one came out on DVD a week or two ago. This is another one where it’s not really a big name for the teens to have heard of like NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or something, so it’s kind of weird that they bothered. But the source material is an underrated movie with a good, simple premise, so that’s attractive. I think the original’s script by Donald Westlake is real good, but it’s definitely elevated by a great performance by Terry O’Quinn. And that guy’s apparently on the popular television program LOST, so you’d think they’d just push the original on the kids and not bother with a new one. You’d think that – but the old one doesn’t have text messaging in it. The new one does. Also, internet research instead of going to the library. It’s a whole new ball game.

Unlike SORORITY ROW this one actually stays very close to the original, not adding much or taking much away. Therefore I think it’s only fair for me to be allowed to just re-use most of my review of the original here.

mp_stepfather09

this is an ’80s horror/suspense thriller, kind of feels like one of those Psycho sequels they made back then. At first I thought it would be cheesy because it has one of those ’80s scores that wants to sound like a whole orchestra but who are they foolin, we all know it’s just one measly keyboard. Sounds like the Full Moon Videos they used to have, about all those little fuckers running around on the ground with knives and crap. Haunted puppets and killer ghoulies and shit. is a remake.

But this one’s not like that, it’s smart and disturbing and maybe even classy. According to an interview I read, Donald Westlake was hired to write a script based on a one line treatment, which was itself based on an actual case. Some nutbag somewhere killed his own family and disappeared, and they found out that three weeks before he killed them he had quit his job, and every day pretended he was going in to work. The idea of the original movie is was, what the fuck was this guy doing from nine to five during those three weeks? And the movie’s answer is he was setting up a replacement family across town. But for the remake he just sets up again after killing the first family. A complete and total reinvention for a new generation, in my opinion.

The killer stepfather is played by Terry O’Quinn, who now is known for playing tough bald cops and FBI agents and individuals of that nature. Back then he was skinnier, looked just like fuckin Ted Bundy which I bet is why they hired him. Dylan Walsh. Opening scene he has just killed his family, and he calmly shaves his beard, changes his appearance. As he’s leaving, he puts away a couple of his daughter’s toys that are laying on the floor. A nice touch. Then walks past her bloody mutilated corpse. Strolls away whistling “Camptown Races.” This scene takes place in Bellevue which is exactly where this type of shit would happen, the rich people city east of Seattle, across the bridge.

Next thing you know he’s about to be remarried, working real estate, making speeches to his neighbors about how he hopes he’s selling them more than a house, he’s selling them a lifestyle. important family is to him. He acts like a nice guy but his soon to be step-daughterson knows what time it is. Actually, she doesn’t have any reason to suspect him at first, but because she hates seeing her mom with this fucker she catches on to him quick. So it catches that feeling of how people feel when their mom has a new boyfriend. But in this case they are completely right about the boyfriend.

I think J.S. (THE MARKSMAN) Cardone’s adaptation of Westlake’s script is good but it’s Terry O’Quinn Dylan Walsh that’s gonna make or break the movie, and what he does is, the first one. He makes it. There’s one scene that’s actually pretty fuckin scary where the step-daughter gets sent to the cellar to grab some ice cream for the neighborhood picnic and sees O’Quinn flippin out, yellin gibberish to himself. Then he realizes she’s there and has to explain it, saying he’s a salesman, he has to smile all day, he needs to let things out sometimes. “You know how it is.” He seems so authentically nuts in the scene though, it’s pretty spectacular. Good one, Terry O’Quinn. not an ice cream scene though.

Director Joseph Ruben Nelson McCormick also did some movie called THE SISTER-IN-LAW PROM NIGHT about a fucked up sister-in-law. remake of PROM NIGHT. So the moral is, don’t marry into this guy’s family. You’re not welcome there. some day soon every horror movie will be made at least twice.

Despite the complete needlessness of THE STEPFATHER (2009), I do have to say that it’s a completely solid movie. I enjoyed it. Although Walsh doesn’t make quite the impression that O’Quinn did (maybe because he re-creates the “who am I here?” scene but not the ice cream/basement freak out) he is very good as a kind of hunky, well-meaning guy with a completely psychotic side. Come to think of it this could almost be a Van Sant PSYCHO situation, trying to use the exact same material but allow a new cast to see if they can successfully play it in a different way, not just an imitation.

Nothing drastic but Walsh does  put a little bit of a different spin on it. O’Quinn’s Stepfather was manic in his pursuit of traditional family values. His murders were partly about judgment, trying to erase people who didn’t fit into his ideal world. For example he shows a house to a guy who offends him by talking about swinging or something, so he kills that guy. It was a statement, not a strategic move.

I think Walsh’s character is sometimes genuine when he’s acting nice. He’s sincerely trying to be a good husband and stepfather, but he can’t keep this psychotic side of himself under control for long. So when he fucks up he has to cover his tracks and then when it gets to be too big of a mess he knows when to call it quits. He has to reboot and start over.

See, “reboot” never would’ve been a concept you would use when the original was made. This is some 21st century shit right here.

So I have some respect for it, and begrudge no one for watching or enjoying it. It’s kind of like the remake of IT’S ALIVE – I got nothing against it as a movie other than that it never needed to be made. There was already a real good one that this adds little to, and is not as good as.

Oh well. Nobody wants their mom to be remarried, and nobody wants their movie to be remade. But it happens. At least it’s a better movie than husband.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 at 3:36 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

26 Responses to “The Stepfather (2009)”

  1. I like the poster of the remake, very classic.

  2. Yeah, I gotta agree about the poster. I like that one too.

  3. Saw the original when I was a kid, and have always rememberd one bit of a scene. It was pretty much near the end, the girl was locked in a room and the stepfather comes to it, holding a knife and trying to get the girl out, all shot from above. He whispers her name in a tender and soft voice but immediately stars screaming and banging the door like a fuckin’ psycho, as if he couldn’t hold his anger inside, not even for a minute. Twas some good shit, man. I’ve heard nothing but crap about the remake, I guess now I’ll have to check it out. Respect, V.

  4. Is it just me, or does the title seem like it could ONLY be used for a Horror movie? I can’t see it really working for a drama or comedy about one. As opposed to for instance LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, which could be a romantic comedy title as much as it could one for a vampire film.

  5. I wonder if the writer’s of ‘Dexter’ watched the original when they were writing the 4th season? Because it seems very similar to the portrayal of the Trinity killer with his family, and John Lithgow’s performance.

  6. I love the original STEPFATHER. One of those great horror movies that make you remember how fucking scary adults were when you were a kid. They were weird and all-powerful and always doing shit you didn’t understand, and if you didn’t like it there was fuck-all you could do about it. Obviously, the G.O.A.T. of this particular sub-genre is PARENTS, a movie you should review kind of immediately, Vern. It’s supposed to be a black comedy but it’s almost too creepy to laugh at.

  7. Also, please nobody drop any bombs about the season of Dexter with Lithgow in it. I haven’t seen it yet and I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. Mr. Majestyk: Ever seen Jean-Claude Lauzon’s film LEOLO? It’s one of those great movies
    that make you remember how fucking scary EVERYTHING was when you were a kid.

  9. “…nobody wants their movie to be remade.”

    Has that one been done yet? A remake of a famous horror movie gets the greenlight and the people making it are killed one-by-one in a manner very similar to the original, implying that the killer is real. But then it turns out to be the director of the original protecting his oeuvre?

    It’s an artistic Stepfather situation, it’s a “backstage musical” horror movie, it can even be a “haunted movie” movie. It might even be good. Which is a tall order considering that it’d be: 1) a gimmick movie, 2) Frankensteined together from different sub-genres, and 3) the main selling point would be the twist. That means that they would indeed sell it on the twist, ensuring that everyone interested would end up knowing about it going in whether from the trailer or Internet talk. Or, on the off chance they don’t publicize the twist, the film would simply be overlooked due to a lack of other saleable elements. It’s meta, though, so someone will definitely finance it.

    Someone write it. We can just hope it turns out good. And hope is what horror movies are all about. Or gore. Depends on who you ask.

  10. And then the REAL killer the first movie was about appears and kills
    the director/killer for stealing his glory.

  11. And then the real killer’s mamma shows up to inflict all sorts of trauma on her wayward, emotionally crippled son. And to whoop his ass.

  12. Coming soon: SCREAM the remake.

    From Platinum Dunes

  13. AncientRomans, your post reminds me of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Which is a damn near perfect film so maybe you’re on to something. There’s quite a few horror movies set on film sets, but considering a film set is basically the perfect place to get away with murder, I’d say the potential hasn’t quite been exploited yet. Think about it, in an environment with guns, explosives, makeup, a rotating door of people entering and exiting, private trailers, people isolated and spread out in different areas, etc… Michael Myers would be right at home. And with cameras and microphones everywhere the protag could go all BLOW-UP/BLOW OUT/THE CONVERSATION on the killer’s shit.

    Your idea though, you’re obligated to write it. Semper fi, marine!

  14. Mr. Majestyk I saw Parents on one of the movies channels once and yeah it creeped me the hell out

    I don’t think it’s on dvd though

  15. Gwai Lo – does Larry Cohen’s SPECIAL EFFECTS count?

  16. Still have never seen Phantom of the Paradise. Simply never had access to it. Never on TV, never available at the local video store. Going to have to NetFlix it. Especially since the current script being worked upon would best be described as “DePalma grotesque.”

  17. I really REALLY think if anybody is thinking of seeing this movie they should do the counter point by reading Scott Foy’s review of the movie.

    http://www.dreadcentral.com/reviews/stepfather-the-2009

  18. Griff, PARENTS is on DVD as part of a double feature with an alright Ally Sheedy horror flick called FEAR.

  19. Nah, we just THINK it’s the original director — who is executive-producing the remake –but then he gets it, too. It’s a fanboy who’s too protective of his favorite movie who has managed to finagle a job as a PA. You know, one of those pathetic fuckers who takes all this stuff WAY too seriously and sits around all day watching DVDs and leaving comments on, uh, blogs about….

    …never mind.

    I think I’ll go outside today.

  20. I had to watch Texas Chain Saw Massacre first, in case I missed something the first twenty-seven times. (I’m pretty sure now that the big guy in the skin mask is the killer.)

    But it’s not too late! I can still make it.

  21. Gwai Lo, on the William Wellman Forbidden Hollywood box set there’s a Vitagraph short that does exactly what you described–uses a film set as the setting for a murder mystery. It’s really startling to watch and see how self-reflexive it is in like, 1932 or something. Somebody should really get the rights to that thing (they can’t be very expensive) and turn it into a feature.

  22. Tomorrow, I will go outside.

  23. parents, I saw a few scenes of that as a 12 year old while at my brother’s friend’s place. I had to. get. out. of. that. house.

  24. and cut with kylie minogue was about a movie crew being sliced up remaking a movie.

  25. saw this yesterday…suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked

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